I mentioned yesterday that money has been on my mind lately, with all the changes we’re making in our house. I’ve been looking up a lot of financial information, including how to save. I’ve always saved money: I started babysitting at 14, got my first job at 16, and always had at least one job until I was almost 30. Most of my money went into savings, to the extent that I traveled for six months without working and barely put a dent in my savings account. Marrying someone with debt and having children makes it harder to save, of course, but not impossible. My problem was that I wasn’t changing my own habits, I was just factoring in more people and expenses. So I looked into saving.
There is no “right” way to save money. Some articles say to put half of your income into savings every month, some say 25%. Some financial institutions say you should have one year of your salary in savings, some say you need 3 months of living expenses, but the big question is, as always – How?
I don’t have an answer. I have something that works for my family, and it is different than much of what I’ve been reading about lately. The Frugalwoods pulled me in because much of their lifestyle is appealing to me, but the more I read, the more jealousy I felt. This couple was on the same page, while I’ve been working for four years to get my husband to a point that is far from my own state of mind. They seem to have more savings than me. They have more property. They just seem happier and better! It’s the Internet-persona curse, right? I have no doubt that all of those things are true, but when I stepped away from their blog, I forced myself to think about their lifestyle.
They mentioned that they went out to dinner maybe twice a year, and always brewed coffee at home. Those two things are somewhat important to me. My husband and I try to go out on a coffee date once a month, and sometimes I will go out with friends for coffee. I still brew a lot at home, and I don’t hit up Starbucks every day, or even every week, but I like the option. Same with going out to dinner. My husband and I probably go out to dinner 4-6 times a year, but we also love to order Chinese, and sometimes we get pizza or burgers as a family treat (maybe once a month). Though it’s a bit cheaper than going out to eat, it’s still an unnecessary expense. But we enjoy it, and sometimes it’s a family thing, or just a sanity-saving thing. So it’s worth the expense to us.
These two factors alone made me turn a critical eye to what we spend money on. I like to buy little treats for the boys when I’m out and see something perfect for them, but now I don’t have to do that. If I see something great, and it’s a good deal, I can buy it, but I now put it away for later. They already have so many toys, they don’t need something else cheap and fun “just because”. By focusing on going green, saving green, and minimalizing, we are changing many aspects about our lives, and everything needs to be evaluated as we change.
Basically, the best answer to “How do you save money?” doesn’t focus on money, it focuses on you. What is important to you? What do you want to spend money on, and what would you rather skimp on?